Mourners gather around the coffin of former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani during a mourning ceremony at the Jamaran mosque in Tehran, on January 9, 2017. Rafsanjani died in hospital on January 8 after suffering a heart attack. Rafsanjani, who was 82, was a pivotal figure in the foundation of the Islamic republic in 1979, and served as president from 1989 to 1997. / AFP PHOTO / ATTA KENARE
Tens of thousands of mourners led by Iran’s supreme leader gathered at Tehran University early on Tuesday for the funeral of former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.
State television showed people pouring on to the streets around the campus where Ayatollah Ali Khamenei will lead the eulogies for Rafsanjani despite their “differences”.
The heavyweight politician, who died on Sunday at the age of 82, will be buried inside the crypt of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution.
Khomeini’s mausoleum is in south Tehran.
Leaders of all of Iran’s competing political factions were expected to attend the funeral.
Black banners were raised in Tehran and some posters showed the supreme leader and Rafsanjani together smiling. Another poster said “good bye, old combatant”.
Free bus or metro travel was provided to the funeral venue.
Since Rafsanjani’s death, messages of condolences have poured in both from at home and and abroad.
Even the White House sent a message, unprecedented since the 1979 revolution that led to cutting of ties between Tehran and Washington.
“Former president Rafsanjani was a prominent figure throughout the history of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the United States sends our condolences to his family and loved ones,” spokesman Josh Ernest said.
“He was a consequential figure inside Iran. But you know, for what potential impact this could have on Iranian policy, I wouldn’t speculate.”